Memorable Meals



Do you remember a special meal where the food and the company was so inviting and nourishing you’ve never forgotten it?  In our Biblical story this week we read of a meal which was so memorable that it is recorded in all four Gospels (the only miracle afforded that status).  I offer a few suggestions and insights from different writers on the story.

Dawn Ottani Wilhelm in her commentary on Mark suggests that this story is “not quite a potluck or a picnic, an earthly banquet or a messianic feast.  Yet it contains elements of each with people sharing food, reclining on green grass (a detail unique to Mark), and enjoying an abundance of bread and fish in the presence of Jesus Christ.”  (p.112)

John Shea reflects that we “eat three times a day, sometimes more.  It can become a mindless act, stoking the furnace, in front of the television.  Anything we do can become repetitious, monotonous, routine.  The way to recover the meaning of eating is to [occasionally] fast….The fast jolts us out of mindlessly responding to biological needs and encourages us to trace our hungers and thirsts into love of God and love of neighbour.”

Joseph Donders suggests that the key impulse in this story is Jesus’ compassion.  Note how Jesus takes pity on his disciples who have just returned from a mission.  He invites them to ‘get away’ and get some rest.

Then he sees the crowd and has compassion on them for they seem lost, physically and spiritually hungry, needing a shepherd’s touch and attention.  Out of his compassion, Jesus produces a feast for the hungry.  The story also reminds us that ‘give us this day our daily bread’ is a prayer that there might be enough bread for all.

Finally, Eugene Peterson offers this picture of the future:  “Assemble in your imagination all the friends that you enjoy being with most, the companions that evoke the deepest joy, your most stimulating relationships, the most delightful of shared experiences, the people with whom you feel most completely alive – that is a hint at heaven… which [may] mean that heaven is like nothing quite so much as a good party.”   

In our eating together, whether at meals, church potlucks, or virtual communion, we get a taste of that future party

PRAYER:  “Be present at our table, Lord.  Be here and everywhere adored.  These mercies bless and grant that we may feast in paradise with thee.  Amen.    (John Cennick, HWB 457).